Djibril Cisse sizes up the competition prior to kickoff.
French striker Djibril Cisse was his fiery self on Tuesday night as he led Panathinaikos FC to a 3-2 victory over Champions League winners FC Internazionale at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Cisse scored two first half goals and nearly scored the hat trick as he was a constant threat against the Inter Milan defence. Sebastián Leto added the other goal for Greek club while Samuel Eto’o and Coutinho replied for the Italian side.
Inter Milan is one of the most storied franchises in Italy and were the winners of the rare ‘Treble’ – winning the 2010 Champions League, Scudetto and Coppa Italia titles. Inter featured a star-studded lineup including Eto’o, Diego Milito, Javier Zanetti, Lucio, Dejan Stankovic, Julio Cesar, Esteban Cambiasso and Maicon to name a few.
Panathinaikos were coming off a great season as well having won the Greek Super League and Greek Cup in 2010. Along with Cisse and Leto, the Athens club featured Sidney Govou, Georgios Karagounis, Sotirios Ninis and Alexandros Tzorvas.
Leto Caps Big First Half
Panathinaikos opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Ninis put a great pass into crease for Cisse, his first shot was stopped by Paolo Orlandoni, but the persistent Cisse tracked down the loose ball and tapped it in past the helpless Inter goalkeeper. Cisse celebrated in style as he performed a wild flip, followed by a somersault through the air.
Samuel Eto’O sees an opening and directs the play for his teammates.
In the 22nd minute, Govou’s attempted chip pass was deflected ahead to a wide-open Cisse, who then dribbled the ball towards Inter defender Ivan Cordoba, before unleashing a shot past Orlandoni to increase the lead to 2-0.
Inter struck back in the 32nd minute after Victor Nsofor Obinna did all the work with a terrific run into box – his pass to Goran Pandev in the crease was knocked away to Eto’o who fired it through a crowd, past Tzorvas to close the gap to 2-1.
Late in the first half, with numbers moving forward, Ninis sliced through the middle and then put up a diagonal pass to a charging Leto who chipped the ball over Orlandoni to make it 3-1.
Mid-way through the second half, Inter made six substitutions at once, bringing on Maicon, Milito, Lucio, Sulley Muntari and Walter Samuel and Davide Santon. This seemed to change the flow of the game as momentum quickly swung in Inter’s favour.
Inter closed the gap to 3-2 in the 85th minute when Maicon, from inside the box, passed ahead to an open Coutinho who drilled it past Tzorvas on the short side.
The Italian club nearly tied it in the final minute of regulation as Milito headed a perfectly placed cross by Maicon just wide of the goal.
Playing it Cool
Cisse and Lucio have to be separated after an incident late in the 2nd half.
In the 78th minute, both Cisse and Lucio went up for a ball and both players crashed to the ground. Cisse was furious with Lucio for his rough play and looked to headbutt the Brazilian defender. It looked as though both players were about to exchange blows, but cooler heads prevailed, and in the name of good sportsmanship they eventually shook hands.
Cisse downplayed the incident in the post-game interviews.
“It was just an accident with Lucio,” said Cisse through a French translator. “It was nothing really serious but he did it on purpose at the beginning, he jumped and we fell down together.
"Because we’re preparing ourselves for the beginning of the championship and we don’t expect to receive kicks or have a hard time, we try to just play it clean and correct. I regret what happened and we shake our hands.”
Newly appointed Inter coach, Rafael Benitez, was impressed with Panathinaikos’ effort in the exhibition match.
Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez shakes hands with Panathinaikos coach Nikolas Nioplias.
“They were patient, when we made a mistake they played well in the counterattack,” said Benitez. “At the end in the second half we had more opportunities and were pressing them higher and had more options, more chances but they were doing the job, they have the experience and they were doing well.”
Cisse thought his team played well and was very pleased with the victory – especially against a formidable opponent.
“We started really well with a win against the European champions, so it’s good for us.”